How Can a Consultant Assist a Law Firm with a Client in Transition or Distress?
By Lyle Bauck and Ryan Bouley
Law firms are regularly called upon to assist companies during critical times. This may be when a company is in a difficult situation such as financial distress, or perhaps under rosier circumstances when there is a major transitioning event like a sale, merger or initial public offering.
While law firms play a crucial and significant advisory role, consultants bring to the professional services group the targeted business, financial and operational acumen that is generally outside the scope of what attorneys do. When taken together, the combination of attorneys and consultants can effectively surround a situation to ensure that the client is not only fully protected and represented from a legal perspective, but also provide meaningful and actionable guidance and support on larger business issues which are inextricably linked to the broader legal exercise.
During these situations, consultants can bring value to the process by assisting lawyers with client management and engagement execution. There are several ways a consultant can drive value in critical situations:
- Boots on the ground. An extra set of eyes and hands can be useful, particularly when they are onsite at the company offices – this can provide a level stability in what can be a stressful or chaotic time. The consultant can become the “go-to” line of communication for the attorneys.
- Augment management. Consultants can provide additional arms and legs to support the management team, leveraging experience to help advise the company and attorneys with key decisions while also easing the burden on management’s time. A perfect example of this is a consultant’s ability to model out multiple scenarios or strategies that can be assessed by management and their counsel.
- Technical expertise. While a company’s management team may be going through a certain situation for the first time, consultants are specialists in their area of discipline. Attorneys may rely upon the consultant’s experience in a certain field to help advise the company, such as liquidity management in a distressed situation or tax strategies for a pending sale.
- Industry experience. Deep industry knowledge can always help an attorney and their client. During the recent restructuring cycle, Opportune was called upon several times to assist energy clients in distress given our firm’s deep knowledge in the oil and gas industry.
- Expert testimony and litigation support. In distressed and other litigious situations, the role of a consultant is not limited to being a trusted business advisor to management. Consultants also take the witness stand to serve as experts in defending and prosecuting causes of action and can help counsel develop overall trial strategy and assist with discovery, depositions, and cross-examinations.